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Three Things to Know: Rule knowledge, plus Devin Booker, gets Suns dramatic win

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Devin Booker is back, but coach Jay Triano’s rulebook knowledge gets Suns dramatic win. There is no goaltending on an inbounds pass. Offensive or defensive. How can there be, it’s not a shot — you can’t score on it (even if it goes through the basket). So if the ball is over the cylinder of the basket on an inbounds pass, you can grab it.

Did you know that? Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff clearly didn’t (watch his reaction to the play below). However, Suns coach Jay Triano did, so with 0.6 seconds left he drew up a play that called for a lob and veteran Tyson Chandler finished the alley-oop as the ball was over the rim, giving the Suns a 99-97 win over Memphis.

That was a great pass by Dragan Bender to make that alley-oop possible. Memphis put Marc Gasol on Bender at the inbounds, which left the not-as-strong Brandan Wright to try to defend Chandler around the basket, and while Wright is more athletic than Gasol he did not have the strength to move Chandler out of the one position he needed to be in to finish the play and the game.

That play is not why the Grizzlies lost. Memphis missed its last 11 shots from the field and went almost six minutes without a bucket in the fourth quarter, that is what cost them the game.

That and Devin Booker. The Suns’ guard was back after missing nine games due to a left adductor strain and he didn’t miss a beat, scoring 20 points in the first half and 32 for the game (he had fouled out before that final play, or maybe it is run for him, you can do a catch-and-shoot in .6 seconds by the NBA rulebook). The Suns are a lot more fun to watch with Booker on the court.

2) Worst in the West beats best in the East? Dallas upsets Toronto. For a day, the Toronto Raptors were on top of the East. Toronto had won six straight and 12-of-13, while the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers both lost on Christmas Day. That left Toronto as the team on top of the East with a .742 winning percentage.

Then they traveled to 9-25 Dallas.

Maybe the Raptors were looking ahead to a showdown with the Thunder Wednesday night, but they were flat and ran into a Mavericks team that isn’t winning a lot but has been feisty and in games lately. The Mavs don’t get blown out. Dallas hung around this one despite Kyle Lowry looking like he would just take over for a stretch (but he missed crucial shots down the stretch). When DeMar DeRozan tried to take over late, he just looked flat (like Toronto did all night).

Dallas got 20 points out of J.J. Barea off the bench, and Dirk Nowitzki had 18 because that’s what he does, to lead the Mavericks. Dallas is going to end up with a high draft pick, but they are not tanking and just throwing in the towel on the season, they are playing gritty basketball.

3) Ejection night: Nikola Jokic gets tossed, as do Kris Dunn and Khris Middleton. Welcome to the night of the “why did he do that?” ejections.

First up is Denver’s Nikola Jokic. He was running down the court when Utah’s Jonas Jerebko bumped him. That happens just about every play. However, Jokic decides to respond with an NFL-style swim move to get around Jerebko, and in the process elbows the Jazz big man in the face.

For a couple of seasons now NBA officials have cracked down on any blows to the head. Intentional or not, they are not allowed and lead to an instant ejection. Jokic earned this one.

However, that was not the most idiotic move leading to an ejection of the night.

There were 22 seconds left in the game and the Bulls were up by 9 and about to upset the Bucks. Milwaukee would take a last shot, Chicago would then dribble it out. But as the Bucks came down Khris Middleton elbows Kris Dunn a little trying to seal him and get position, Dunn then grabbed Middleton’s jersey, so Middleton threw another elbow at Dunn, then Dunn tackled him. Did we mention there were now 16.9 seconds left in a decided game?

Maybe they were arguing over the proper way to spell their first name, in which case Chris Paul should have gotten into it and ejected too, even though he wasn’t even playing in this game or on either of these teams. There will be fines for this, which is going to sting when it’s time to write the check because this was the definition of unnecessary.

Former President George H.W. Bush says he’s more concerned with Rockets beating Timberwolves than his own health issues

AP Photo/Rick Bowmen
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Former President George H.W. Bush is hospitalized with an infection.

Spokesman Jim McGrath:

The Rockets, up 3-1, play the Timberwolves in Game 5 tonight.

Warriors players upset with team’s handling of media member taking security manager’s jacket

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey
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After the Warriors’ Game 5 win over the Spurs, Draymond Green was asked about video of a jacket incident. Green:

Obviously it’s unfortunate. I think, you know, what it boils down to it, it’s a jacket but I think it’s more so the principle. You’re in your own space and you want to return your jacket, and all of us do and so I think it’s more so the principle than the actual thing.
Like, you know, if I got a dollar sitting here, it’s a dollar, but it’s my dollar. I wouldn’t expect nobody to take it. That’s an unfortunate situation. We got a great front office and great media PR staff that will figure it all out.

Green was talking about a video of KGO-TV sports anchor Mike Shumann.

Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

Shumann, the former 49ers receiver who has been with KGO since 1994, was in San Antonio last week to provide coverage of the Warriors-Spurs playoff series. He was captured on video after practice last Thursday bending over, picking up a jacket, folding it and walking out of AT&T Center. The jacket, it was later, confirmed, belonged to Warriors security manager Ralph Walker, who had not given Shumann permission to take it.

Approached about the incident, Shumann returned the jacket, apologized and also tried to explain his actions, essentially saying he wasn’t thinking clearly.

Insofar as Shumann is a Disney Company employee — Disney owns ABC and ESPN — the matter put the Warriors organization in a compromised position. Disney’s contract with the NBA gives ABC affiliates exclusive access on specific telecasts, something the Warriors take seriously. In their attempt to control the damage and preserve status quo with Shumann, they wanted to consider the matter a benign misunderstanding.

The players were not in such a forgiving mood. They urged that action be taken, partly out of loyalty to Walker but largely because of their belief the incident would not have been taken so lightly likely if the jacket had been removed by a person of color.

They smelled a double standard.

I’ve been professionally acquainted with Mike for years and had never formed an opinion of his character. I heard what had happened, followed up with a few people and became aware of how the team felt. I saw the video and considered it bizarre behavior on his part.

Maybe that’s all it is. Or maybe there is some medical or psychological explanation.

Some Warriors were merely bothered by the entire episode, others were outraged — mostly about the attempt to bury it.

My inclination in most circumstances is to give people the benefit of the doubt absent other information. Maybe this was an innocent mistake, a joke gone awry or, as Poole wondered, a medical or psychological episode.

But I also recognize that white people are more likely to receive that benefit of the doubt-.

The solution isn’t to throw Schumann under the bus without a better understanding of what happened. It’s to extend everyone that courtesy. Fairness doesn’t require extending vindictiveness.

This is only complicated by the NBA’s relationship with Schumann’s company. When justice and business interests align, it’s easier. When they diverge, it gets harder.

The Warriors have developed a cohesiveness throughout their organization (also easier done while winning). They must manage this incident to avoid undermining those bonds.

Report: Kawhi Leonard and Spurs must repair ‘broken’ relationship before San Antonio offers super-max extension

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The Spurs can offer Kawhi Leonard a super-max contract extension – which projects to be worth $219 million over five years – this offseason.

Will they?

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

The relationship between Kawhi Leonard is broken, and it’s got to be put back together again before the Spurs are going to make that kind of commitment to a player. And that’s going to take a lot of talking, communication and some comprise here in the next few months before the Spurs can make that offer. But the idea that an organization like the Spurs are going to just blindly walk in and give the biggest contract in franchise history to a player who has behaved the last few months like he doesn’t want to be a part of them, it’s not going to happen that way. So, there’s a lot of repairing that’s going to be done before they even make that offer, I believe.

Leonard will reportedly meet with San Antonio for an exit interview, and that’s the next big step toward mending fences.

Remember, LaMarcus Aldridge requested a trade last summer. Then, he and Gregg Popovich talked and got on the same page. Aldridge just had an excellent season for the Spurs. Handling unhappy players is part of the job. When they’re as good as Aldridge and Leonard, it’s worth making the effort to find common ground.

If San Antonio finds enough with Leonard to offer him the super-max extension, the next question becomes: Will he sign it? He might prefer to move on.

But nobody is that far. The big benchmark in this process is the Spurs offering or not offering the super-max extension. They must determine whether or not they will.

Report: Heat to explore Hassan Whiteside trade options

Associated Press
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Is there much demand for Hassan Whiteside around the NBA marketplace?

The pro-Whiteside camp can point to some raw numbers: He averaged 14 points and 11.4 rebounds a game this season (and 17 and 14 a season ago), he shot 54 percent from the floor, and had a PER of 24.1.

However, his shortcomings were on full display in the playoffs. In the first two games, when Philadelphia played small, Whiteside didn’t have a place on the court and saw limited minutes. When Joel Embiid returned things got worse — in the three games matched up against Embiid, when Whiteside was on the court the Heat were outscored by 11.9 points per 100 possessions. Whiteside played just 10 minutes in Game 5, where he was 0-of-4 from the field, picked up three fouls, and was -14. All through the series, Whiteside complained about his lack of minutes.

Whiteside and Erik Spoelstra are not on the same page, and the Heat would like to move him in a trade… but good luck with that. From Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

The Heat is expected to explore a Whiteside trade, with the center due $24.4 million and $27.1 million in the final two years of his contract.

In a tight financial market, the Heat are going to struggle to find a team with the space (or willing to create the space) to take on $51.5 million over two seasons. Even if they do, the Heat are going to have to attach sweeteners — multiple first round picks, or a pick and young players that interest teams (Kelly Olynyk or Bam Adebayo, for example). It’s going to be a lot to give up to get out of that contract. Maybe in the summer of 2019, when the market loosens up and Whiteside is an expiring contract, they more easily can find a deal. This summer it would be difficult.

But expect the Heat (and Whiteside’s agent) to look for a trade. It’s time to part ways, it just may not be that simple to do.